Identity and Intersectionality by Anonymous

Intersectionality: the understanding that our lives are not shaped by one social identifier alone - rather, the understanding that individuals are constituted by gender, race, class, sexuality, religion, nationality, age, ability, and other social experiences.

During a discussion about intersectionality in class, I suddenly began to recall small phrases I had heard spoken by people in my life, and the pieces started to fit together.

“Oh, she’s a pretty Asian.”

“You throw like a girl.”

“They’re both gay? That’s so weird.”

I don’t remember the first time someone taught me at school that if you pull your eyes to stretch them and make them thinner, you look Chinese. I remember doing this at home, and my parents telling me not to, but back then I didn’t know any better and I didn’t realize the implications of my actions. Children are taught stereotypes at such a young age, and these stereotypes and prejudices often follow them throughout their childhood and beyond which is why education is so important. If we teach kids that being different is OK and that being inclusive is important, hopefully those prejudices will disappear, and love and acceptance will take their place.

I’m lucky that I haven’t faced a large amount of racial discrimination personally, but I definitely have witnessed it directed towards other people. I’ve always taken pride in coming from a background of multiple races and religions because I’ve had the opportunity to shape my worldview from growing up with two distinct cultures. However, my mom and dad’s marriage was not completely supported by everyone. Even their own parents were hesitant about their marriage because of their different races and religions. When it comes to my future, I know that my parents would be completely accepting if I was in an interracial relationship, but I can’t say I’m not worried about what they think about same-sex relationships.

Although I have faced racism and sexism throughout my life, I had never felt so silenced until sexuality came into the picture. I know being gay is not something to be ashamed of, but it’s hard to accept yourself when you’re worried about what everyone else will think. Even if someone’s not homophobic, what if they think you’re weird, or are disappointed, or just think of you differently? Until recently, I didn’t realize the little things that so many people take for granted; talking about our hopes for our future families, gushing over our celebrity crushes, or seeing ourselves represented in the media are some of these things that are often overlooked. For example, I have never seen someone in mainstream American media that looks like me, let alone someone who looks like me and is gay. TV shows and movies lack LGBTQ+ representation, and even when, for example, LGBTQ+ women are represented, they are often stereotyped or fetishized. On YouTube, however, it’s inspiring to be able to see real people share their lives without scripts or stereotypes, and it helps me realize that I’m not alone. When you’re too scared to talk to anyone about your sexuality in real life, it’s so nice to be able to watch YouTubers talk about their experiences and their struggles.

I’m so thankful to have such a supportive group of friends, as well. Many of them are also part of the LGBTQ+ community, and recently we’ve been able to open up and share our experiences. It’s comforting to know that we’re all going through similar things and that we always have each other’s backs. We often discuss heteronormativity in our lives, whether that be at school, in our families, or elsewhere. I’ve definitely felt uncomfortable when heteronormative comments have been said at school because confronting them can be a slippery slope since I want to be able to explain how these comments make me feel, but then again I am not ready to come out.

Even though my grandparents grew up with different cultures, they all grew up with very traditional cultural and religious beliefs, and for the most part, those beliefs have stuck with them. No one in my family has come out before, and I’m scared to do so because I don’t want to disappoint my grandparents’ views for my future or of me in general. At the end of the day, I know my happiness is more important than what others think, but it’s really daunting to know that I will probably have to be the one to pave the way for others in my family to come out.

*Update*

Over the course of the past few months, I’ve come out to my immediate family, close friends, and one teacher, and I couldn’t be happier with the positive responses I’ve gotten. I’m so thankful to be part of such a supportive community, and I recognize that many people aren’t as fortunate as me when it comes to coming out. However, I believe that our generation is the one that will change the societal standards and stereotypes regarding any and all aspects of a person’s identity. I hope that the future will be even more open-minded and compassionate so that people will be able to embrace their identities without the fear of other’s opinions. .